Monday, February 06, 2006

Social liberation from ignorance, superstition

At the invitation of a relative, I visited a Chinese-language educational books' exhibition yesterday in Kampung Jarom in Jenjarom near Klang. Although not surprised, I was still delighted to see that many parents and their children interested themselves in titles ranging from Chinese classical writings to translated American and Western literature like Ernest Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea and Jane Eyre's Carlotte Bronte, biographies of Buddha, Jesus, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Men Tzu, Lu Xun, Issac Newton, Albert Einstein and Karl Marx, etc.

Looking back over the last 150 years, I think the most critical factor in liberating the minds of the Chinese people from feudalistic lethargy, conformism, ignorance and superstition has been the spread of secular and modern education, both formal and informal (social) since the late 19th and early 20th century. As the result, the 5,000-year dynastic cycle was broken in 1911 by a republican revolution (just 7 year before the final defeat of the Ottoman Empire in 1918 by Western powers), cultural discrimination and institutional oppression of women were ended, orthodox Confucianism as a hegemonic ideology of the unproductive or parasitic ruling class was widely critiqued and discredited, and modern and secular sciences was made subjects in schools and universities.

Translation of foreign-language books (not only from English but also French, Spanish, German, Russian, Arabic and Japanese) is now an established institution and industry in Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

As I revealed earlier, the first thing one of my semi-literate aunts thought of after she struck empat ekor in early 1970s was to buy me a good world map.


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